Part 5 – England in a Day

We had seen a good bit of England already but there was much we wouldn’t see. Since we hadn’t seen near as much of London as we wanted, it was a bit of decision to decide between an extra day of London and seeing more of England. We decided to take an England-in-a-Day tour offered by Premium Tours. They have a number of different tours but this had the places we most wanted to see.

We had a difficult time finding the right place to join the tour. We didn’t realize there was a Victoria Station for trains (both underground and overground), Victoria Station for local buses, and Victoria Coaches Station. See Chapter Four: Frustrations of London Travel.

So after multiple phone calls and standing at the wrong Victoria Station for buses (the local one) for a while and finally figuring out where to go, we got there at the tail end of loading process. We had a very entertaining tour leader who referred to himself as “Handsome Alan.” That was to be the codeword for getting into the exhibits or on the bus. With big tours, occasionally other tourists will try to gain free entrance by blending in with a big group.

Despite being full of himself, he was funny for one day. Several days in a row of his humor may have to been too much. Driving through London on our way out to the country, he showed us things we would’ve otherwised missed.

Our only view of Harrods of London:

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A replica of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation gown in their window:

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Such as the street Princess Diana grew up on, her favorite restaurant, etc. We were educated on the “proper” way of pronouncing words like aluminium (a-lu-MIN-ee-um), Keswick (KEZZ-ick), and the Greenwich Time (GREN-itch) “oh, and yeah, time starts and stops in England,” he gloats. “It’s easy”, he’d say. “Get it right. Don’t be embarrassing yourself.” (Of course, we chewed that for the next couple of weeks!) He told us we were going through areas of attacking sheep, and cows that threw boomerangs, and pick-pocketing elderly people. Here are some of the signs he was referring to:

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Wonder what he would say about this one? Beware flying motorbikes?? Evil Knieval?

UK road signs

Our first stop, after an hour or more of driving, was Stonehenge.

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It is in the middle of a farming country. It is still a puzzle as to its origin and purpose. This kind and size of stone is not found in this area an most likely came from Wales. How did they move it overland that far? Why? Does it have religious significance? Was it a calendar of sorts? At winter and summer solstice, the sun rises at a center point which makes them pretty sure that time has some significance in it’s construction. It is now fenced off so you can see it for free from the road through a chain-link fence, or you can pay admission to walk around it. You can only walk up to it with a special entrance fee, which is usually in the evenings. Unfortunately they implemented those restrictions because tourists were beginning to desecrate it by chipping  away pieces to take along home.

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Last winter I was discussing visiting Stonehenge with a local businessman who had been there in December. He mentioned that it was at over-rated but I reminded him that if you consider the unknown details and how important it was to someone to move these enormous multi-ton rocks with very basic equipment 200+ miles to this spot. Summer solstice sunrise is a popular time for attendance. However, I would stay away from it on that date.

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In the above photo, the peak sticking up on the tallest rock on the left, was made to fit into a notch cut out of the rock that had been on top.

One of the points of interest was driving through the Cotswalds. Of the 4 main points of interest, this was the least noteworthy. Partly because we had been to other parts of England that were just as pretty and looked similar, partly because we were on a bus and you couldn’t stop when you saw something interesting. And partly too because after jostling along in a bus for an hour, both morning and evening, I got a bit drowsy and a nap felt inviting.

We passed Prince Charles’ “back door” as Handsome Alan said. It was, actually, the back gated entrance to his estate where they live.

We were in Bath (pronounced Bahth) for an hour or 2. It was just enough time to whet the appetite and to only spend time at 1 place. That place, for me, was the Roman Baths. Yes, the Jane Austen Center was nearby as well but we had very little time to see it and the Baths are much more historic, as well as close to our bus stop. Bath, in the Austen Era, was considered the Hollywood of England. The place to see and be seen.

But before we did our touristy stuff we grabbed a quick lunch. We had been hearing about pasties (pronounced pahsteez). It is sort of a hand-held pot pie, the crust like a pie crust, but pinched closed like a turnover. HERE is a recipe that I have pinned but haven’t tried yet, in case you want to get a better idea of what I’m talking about.

I didn’t get very many pictures of this area. It was hustle, hustle, quick see what you want to see. The disadvantage of doing a bus tour instead of driving.

The cathedral to the left, the Roman Baths to the right.

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The Roman Baths have recently been uncovered and are thought to be 2,000-ish years old.

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The spring water is warm and sulphuric. A lady, centuries ago, had not been able to get pregnant. Very soon after she drank this water, she became pregnant. Hence, it is believed to have healing properties.

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 If you’re not into history, you may want to skip this place, because it’s all about history.

Ancient coins found here:

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I had a few minutes so I went to the cathedral. A choir from out of town was singing. It was quite a beautiful.

I also skipped a few blocks back to get some pictures of Bath from a bridge we had crossed coming in.

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See those houseboats above? There were quite a few canals throughout England and we often saw these type of houseboats. Many were brightly colored. I don’t know if they were holiday (vacation) boats or year-round homes.

I also didn’t get to see Royal Crescent.

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photo source

Or if you’re an Austen fan:

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photo source

A few scenic shots as we left Bahth.

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Next we headed to Stratford upon Avon, aka, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. We first were treated to scones, juice and champagne, as well as a lady giving us a one-act play of one Shakespeare’s works. Not sure which one.

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Most of the scones we had, had currants (similar to raisins) in them.

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She was good!

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As per usual, we couldn’t take any pictures inside. I know they had some interesting stories to tell, but we were 2 weeks into information soaking and of course, you can’t remember even a fourth of everything you hear. And it’s too much fun enjoying it too take notes of everything. There are many things that are best just enjoyed without the pressures of recording each thing.

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A few nearby shops were still open and we spent the rest of our free time perusing them. And grabbed another pastie for half price from the bakery that was about to close. Yum. Seriously yum!

We got back into London in the early evening. Too late to really see much more and we were just about worn out anyway. All that riding on the bus, and eating pasties, and hearing Handsome Alan stories.

You’ve already heard about our frustrating exit from London on Saturday so my next post will be about Wales.

Lovely Wales. Can’t wait to show you the beauty that is Wales!

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